Let’s remember who they were (and are)
Whitewash: The racist history the Democratic Party wants you to forget.
By Bruce Bartlett (December 24, 2007)
In his new book, “The Conscience of a Liberal,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman makes a strong case for his belief that the political success of the Republican Party and the conservative movement over the past 40 years has resulted largely from their co-optation of Southern racists that were the base of the Democratic Party until its embrace of civil rights in the 1960s. A key piece of evidence for Mr. Krugman is that Ronald Reagan gave his first speech after accepting the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 near Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. In the course of this speech, Reagan said he supported “states’ rights.” Mr. Krugman says this was code declaring his secret sympathy for Southern racism.
Others, including Mr. Krugman’s Times colleague David Brooks and Reagan biographer Lou Cannon, have come to Reagan’s defense, denying that he was a racist or had any racist intent in his 1980 speech. That’s fine but unlikely to change the minds of those like Mr. Krugman who are determined to smear the Republican Party with the charge of racism, and who are adept at finding racist code words like “law and order” by Republicans that are completely convincing to liberals and Democrats in support of this accusation, even though they are invisible to those with no political ax to grind.
However, if a single mention of states’ rights 27 years ago is sufficient to damn the Republican Party for racism ever afterwards, what about the 200-year record of prominent Democrats who didn’t bother with code words? They were openly and explicitly for slavery before the Civil War, supported lynching and “Jim Crow” laws after the war, and regularly defended segregation and white supremacy throughout most of the 20th century.
Following are some quotes from prominent Democrats largely drawn from my new book, “Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past.” Even with the exclusion of all quotes that contain the N-word, it is clear that many of the Democratic Party’s most important historical figures have long made statements that reduce Reagan’s alleged transgression to a drop in the ocean. If we are going to hold him and his party accountable for a single mention of states’ rights, then the party of those listed below is far more culpable in promoting and defending racism. [...]